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Dancers will 'Burn the Floor' at Clay Center Tuesday

WANT TO GO?

"Burn the Floor"

WHERE: Clay Center

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday

TICKETS: $34 and $55.25

INFO: 304-561-3570 or www.theclaycenter.orgCHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Venezuelan-born dancer Karen Hauer said that professional dancers like to do a lot of things in their off time. Not that she and the rest of the cast of "Burn the Floor" have a lot of time off. The sizzling ballroom dance show blazes into town Tuesday night for a performance at the Clay Center.

Hauer said time off is special. One thing you probably won't see her or any of the other dancers do when they're not working is dance.

"Nope," she laughed. "Dancing for fun? No such thing."

Too much hard work and preparation goes into making "Burn the Floor" an exciting dance spectacle.

"I spend 24 hours a day thinking how I can improve, what I should focus on more," she said. "That's what makes 'Burn the Floor' the greatest show on earth for me -- the detail."

Hauer and the other dancers also spend a lot of time dancing. Hauer said they do, on average, eight shows a week. Each show is two hours, plus rehearsals and stretching. It's not unusual for them to spend a full 12 hours dancing and that's in between hours spent on a bus.

"I'm always stretching," she said then laughed. "Here I am talking to you on the phone while I'm sitting in the floor, doing what? Stretching."

But the stretching, the rehearsals, they're all very necessary in the life of a dancer.

Hauer has wanted to be a dancer as far back as she can remember. After her family moved to New York from Venezuela when she was 8 years old, Hauer studied at the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance.

"I started out as a contemporary dancer," she said. "Then went on to the 'Fame' school, the LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts."

At the school, she was exposed to different kinds of dance, which made it easier for her to take ballroom dance seriously.

"I stumbled into it when I was 19," she said. "Since then, I didn't bother looking back."

Many of the styles of ballroom matched up well with Hauer's Latin roots. "I felt very comfortable with it. It was very natural for me."

She began competing in ballroom competitions and auditioned for the reality TV competition "So You Think You Can Dance?" She finished in the Top 12 in season six (2009).

Hauer said, "I was pretty successful with that, but then I was pulled to 'Burn the Floor' while they were on Broadway."

When the show went on tour, she followed. It's been a great run. The "Burn the Floor" dance company has racked up more than 100 championship titles including The International Latin Championship and the U.S. Latin Championship.

Hauer said while there are a lot of different steps to each dance, with some of them looking kind of similar, it's not especially difficult for her to remember where her feet are supposed to go.

"It's a lot like learning a language," she explained. "You learn your ABCs, then you put your letters together to make words."

The dance is very demanding, but one of the hardest things is the travel, having to sit still for hours on end while flying in a plane or riding on a bus.

"You also have to try not to get sick," she said. "It makes it harder."

The show and the crowd are the best parts, but what does she do when it's all over?

"I like to shop, eat, sleep," she said. "Anything I can to just feel normal."

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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